by Mizelle Mayo
Abdullah Butler lives in the same house with the same address and the same phone number for 40 years, yet he chooses to blend in with his fellow friends on the Fairview streets.
“Just because you’re in the element, doesn’t mean you’re part of the element,” he said.
Butler is not a shy fellow. In fact, he has done several interviews to be a voice for the Fairview community. With no time to spare, he elaborates on his life from New York to Alaska.
He came to Alaska in 1975 from South Bronx, New York. He had seen and experienced different generations growing up from the east coast.
“I grew up in the 50s and 60s where I had to sit at the back of the bus, I couldn’t go to certain restaurants, I could only walk down certain streets, I could only go to certain schools, and I could only hangout with certain people. All that stuff was very prevalent for me. It was very real. The hoses being sprayed and all the dogs. All that stuff was fact of life for me,” he said.
Growing up in New York, he was a good student until he hit 11th grade. For some reason he lost his mind, he said, and wanted to be one of those crazy kids that liked to party. Before he knew it, he got himself caught in a drug trade.
His family saw the opportunity to have a better life, and Butler booked his ticket with 17 of his siblings and cousins to be the “first 17” to have migrated to Alaska. Now he has 56 blood relatives living here.
When he started settling in to the new environment, he fell back into what he knew best and started using drugs again. He checked into the treatment center 7 times and did 18 years in jail.
Now 58 years old, Butler is willing to help people out. He recently had his family from the lower 48’s fly over here for a reunion, and they volunteered at Bean’s Café.
“I did a lot of damage over the years to this community. So this is my way to paying it forward and giving back.”
He tries to help as much as possible by cleaning up around business owners’ properties, stop females from getting beat up, or intervene fights from escalating.
“These people, the ones that know me, know that I care. I pay it forward. Anybody can come over to my house and eat, if they’re cold they can get warm. I will never deny anyone anything to eat. Ever.”
With his rich history, Butler wants to see a change in the community that the people need. He opens up about an issue of a former liquor store called Spirits. He said that the former liquor store on 12th had been running for 20 years until it was petitioned to be shut down. Most of the people hung out in that area until it closed, and Oaken Keg Spirit Shop was soon the main buzz. Butler disagrees with the solution they thought would fix the situation.
“All they did was take their problem from that block to this block. You know, these people don’t care. But yet, they still blame the inebriates, the addicts, and everything that’s going on around here. They should be looking at themselves because they’re not giving these people what they need,” he states.
As far as his impact, Butler continues to pay it forward by letting the people in the community know he cares by telling them, “It don’t cost a dime to be a friend. It doesn’t cost a penny to care. And love is free.”